Wadi Rum covers an expanse of desert of nearly 2 million acres. It is actually a series of valleys and “jebels” (mountains) comprising the extraordinary and starkly beautiful landscapes made famous by the exploits of T. E. Lawrence—better known as Lawrence of Arabia. It is also known as the Valley of the Moon. A great deal of the scenes from the Oscar-winning film Lawrence of Arabia were filmed here, and those scenes capture Lawrence’s words written in a letter that it is “magically haunted ... vast, echoing and God-like.” This great expanse of desert covers a good portion of the southwest of the country along the borders of Israel to the west and Saudi Arabia to the south.
Jordan has a wealth of attractions, including ancient ruins and natural wonders, and Wadi Rum has become one of the top destinations for foreign visitors. The area is particularly popular for trekking and rock climbing on the huge jebels and rock formations. Here is the highest peak in the country, Jebel um Adaami, at just over 6,000 feet. It is a popular excursion from Rum Village, and an ascent provides beautifully clear views of the surrounding area, including the Red Sea. The area also provides excellent opportunities for camel and horseback safaris as well as cultural interaction with the Bedouin people who are the primary inhabitants of this sparsely populated desert. Virtually all activities here will include interaction with these semi-nomadic herders. There are no hotels to speak of in the area, other than a handful of basic guesthouses around Rum Village where the Visitors Centre is located. If you come for more than a day-trip, you will undoubtedly be camping, and much of that is done in Bedouin camps. If your plans call for a Bedouin visit, you will get a much better reception if dressed modestly—not in skimpy shorts and halter tops. Lightweight cotton clothing that covers your shoulders, arms, and legs is actually more comfortable in desert heat. And, blazing hot deserts get quite chilly at night, so have something warm if you’re camping.
While you can experience Wadi Rum independently, this is advised only for the more intrepid and experienced adventurers. To do this on your own, you would generally travel from Aqaba, the largest city in the region. You can also take a bus, which runs daily, from the beautiful red city of Petra. Once here however, entrance into the Wadi Rum Protected Area, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is prohibited to private vehicles. You must book a guided camel or four-wheel-drive tour. This can be done in Rum Village, but often requires bargaining directly with Bedouins.
The majority of visitors will book a Wadi Rum excursion as part of package vacations that include other destinations. A typical itinerary for a longer vacation is apt to include a couple days of sightseeing in the capital city of Amman, a visit to the Dead Sea, and a visit to Petra. The visit to Wadi Rum usually occurs from Petra. Once in the desert, there are a number of fascinating things to see. Not far from the guest house in Rum Village, you will find impressive ruins of a Nabataean temple dating to 39 A.D. There are ancient Anfashieh inscriptions, rock carvings, and petroglyphs (more than 25,000 of them); spectacular rock bridges and massive dunes of red sand; and the legendary rock formation called the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, which became the title of Lawrence’s epic autobiography. The best time to travel to Wadi Rum is during March and April or October and November. It is extremely hot during the summer months. There is often rain during the winter and even snow in the higher mountains.